everything that's happened since

I've written a whole book since the last time I was on here. Not sure how I managed that, or how I managed to not pour forth on here about the daily hiccups and constant torrents of self-doubt that accompany that particular endeavour. Previous attempts at book-writing accumulated another book's worth of blog posts; meandering missives concerned with the curious space writers occupy. It could be limbo, but perhaps it's more that limbo is the ideal, the space I search for when I'm writing. An in-between space occupied by only me, a part of the world and apart from it. In contact enough to sip a whisky and see the odd friend, but outside so that nothing can exist but the sound of my fingers banging on the keys to Dvořák's 9th. It works as an ideal to aim for, rather than something to expect. Anyway, I wrote it, limbo or not, and I'm rewriting it now. I like the characters more than the book, so the rewrites are to make sure they get the book they deserve. It's slow, but sort of steady. 

Also, through no fault of my own, I appear to be a wine merchant again. In a shop. With wine. And whisky. I missed whisky. Well, I missed constantly dealing with whisky on a professional level. I was never really far enough away from it on a casual level to actually *miss* it. There are thirteen bottles next to my desk and a glass of Springbank next to my trackpad for goodness' sake. Anyway, it's a job with great booze. I will not be talking about it much here. 

There's another manuscript to rewrite, an old one. The first novel I wrote, the one that got me writing in the first place, that is going to need a hefty rewrite as well. Fortunately, my editor doesn't get their mitts on it until October, so I've got time to rewrite the other one first. Hopefully. That book is published next year. You can still get your name in it, if you fancy.  

I've drunk well, eaten well, and run a lot. I've come up with a name for my wine label. It's Cathar(tic) Wines, if you're at all interested. They are not yet available in a discerning independent wine merchant near you. They may never be. There aren't many bottles to be honest, and I'm pretty sure my mum is going to drink most of them. The name's a mediaeval history joke, if you need any further proof that I'm an incurable nerd. I like having a wine label. It's only taken a decade, which is less time than getting my first novel published, but more time than publishing my first wine book.

Other than that, the summer is kind of a blur. Some lovely friends got married, though that was May. Some other friends had parties and others drank on weather beaten picnic tables outside pubs. I tried to get to get to Scotland but couldn't, so I drank a bit more whisky than summer usually suggests and Scotland came to me. 

Someone died that shouldn't have. Who I'd not seen in too long but was so strong a presence in a time and part of my life that still feels and tastes so fresh that it could have been five minutes ago. I can hear her laughing and fighting and shouting with glee and she's not there anymore and while I know that I'm supposed to celebrate her having been there at all, I'm still angry and sad that so bright a life and talent is gone. She drove a red Honda Jazz (when I knew her) and painted horses and liked wine. I disagreed with some of her politics, but liked the way she fought for them. I'm ashamed that whenever I thought, "I've not seen or spoken to her in awhile" I just assumed it would be something time would correct, that we would meet again because that's what people do. But she's gone now and it doesn't seem real.


falling with style

My legs don’t work the way they used to. Every day, there’s a little reminder. Going down the stairs I need to concentrate. Something’s missing. Something that I didn’t even know was there until it went away. An unconscious ability, like a reflex, that I took for granted, unaware of its existence. I’m not even sure how best to describe it, except for perhaps as confidence in the next step. Walking, running, descending a stair case or a ladder; these things are sort of like touch typing, or the most basic aspects of hand-eye coordination. They should be like being able to close your eyes and touch your nose. It’s a simple awareness of oneself in relation to the world. 

And it’s disappearing. Every step down the stairs requires complete focus; balance doesn’t come naturally, it must be willed into existence. My legs are strong; I can run and walk long distances. But every step is a choice. There is no longer the inevitability of one foot simply following the other to propel me forward.

It’s frustrating, but I’m getting used to it. I can still run, so I do. I can still walk, so I do. I can still dance.

To look at me, I wouldn’t strike you as much as a dancer. It’s one of the reasons I like dancing so much. It’s like a nice little surprise that a stocky guy like me isn’t lost on the dance floor, that I can, should the situation require, bust a move.

I don’t do it very often. Weddings; big parties; that sort of thing. I’m not a clubber. I’ve never gone out just to go for a dance. In fact, the thought of that horrifies me - I’ll turn quite taciturn and grumpy should it ever be suggested. 

I never took a dance class. I just liked moving to the music. My legs seem to respond to the rhythm on their own. It was a rare treat; a release. I went where they took me. My inspiration, if I had one, was probably John Belushi as Jake Blues in The Blues Brothers. Similar build, unlikely dancer, but man, he just loses himself in it. There’s a freedom to it. No thinking, just dancing. 

I can’t remember which wedding it was that I realised a part of that was gone. I don’t know what song it was that my legs couldn’t move to the music. It’s a mystery what nerve pathway translates music to movement without a thought. All I remember is a collapse in my heart as I got on the dance floor and my legs wouldn’t move without me telling them to, and even then it was like two lead posts below my knees. I got scared that I’d twist an ankle as I couldn’t count on my balance or coordination. Every step to the beat was preceded by a 1,2 in my head. I had to keep track rather than listen to the music. It wore me out quicker. 

At a party a we while ago, there was a lot of dancing. I forced myself to join in. It was a good party, full of good people. The tunes were great. But my legs felt slower. Out of control again. They weren’t so much moving to the beat as they were responding to gravity. I remembered Woody in Toy Story’s outrage at Buzz thinking he could fly. That he wasn’t flying, he was just falling with style. It felt apt on the dance floor; I was flailing, and my legs were just falling with style. 

I’ve been trying to figure out why it bothers me so much. MS has far worse consequences than making you feel awkward on the dance floor. You’d think the chronic pain and constant exhaustion would be more upsetting, but nope, it’s the fear of losing the ability to dance with abandon only 5 or 6 times a year that brings unease. I'm still going to try, obviously. I will be dragged from the dance floor a sweaty mess until, quite literally, I can't dance anymore. But in the meantime, there's that feeling that something is missing. A sense of something taken away that I can't get back. And the touch of fear that it's just the beginning.

Please support my first novel.

what's happened since

My whisky's a little cloudy, which is no bad thing and somewhat reflective of the season. Or seasons, depending on where you are and where you've been. 

I've been to Scotland and France in the meantime. 

I ran into the North Atlantic in the shadow of a threatening storm and dipped through the surf as the sun peaked through the veil of grey towards the horizon. Afterwards the three of us huddled in towels and changed back into our clothes on the beach in Machir Bay. We avoided the riptide. A weather station stood on the cliff to the west. It felt like the very edge of the world. 

The next day I ran and fell and hobbled over the finish line in Bowmore. The rain fell harder as the race went on and I didn't know if I'd make it, but I did. I'll be faster next year. It would be hard to be slower.

There was a house on Islay for sale. In Bowmore. I tried to work out if I could buy it. I couldn't.

I signed the contract for my next book. That was nice.

And then I went to France. I made wine and drank some, too. And beer and gin. More gin even than usual, which is saying something. We bbq'd snails and used Catalan flip knives to cut pieces of bread and cheese for lunch. There was a party at a bar called Jeannine à la Mer in Canet. The barmen wore togas and the barmaid opened my beer with her teeth. The walls stood adorned with fishing tackle and the DJ played ridiculous remixes of both Aretha and the Beatles. Thibault did a striptease and the girls sprayed him with Perrier water. We drank Champagne when the gin was finished because the bar ran out of beer. The heavens opened that night, and thankfully there was no fruit picked the next day. 

Now I'm here again and some friends have left and some friends are back. Some won't be coming back. 

Now I sit down to write and find something else to do. I heard a deadline whizz by me on Wednesday, and there's another scheduled to whizz by me on Monday. My editor says it's okay, he understands. It happens. I know, I say, thanks, I know it happens.

But I still hate it when it does.